In just a matter of months, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 4 million people worldwide, including at least 1.4 million in the United States. When it began spreading here, the primary concern was whether the disease would test the limits of our health care system, or possibly overwhelm it.
Indeed, the initial response of ordering people to shelter at home and self-quarantine was less about eradicating the virus and more about slowing its spread to limit the strain on hospitals and medical providers.
While the near-constant news coverage of the coronavirus has focused on fighting the disease itself, it has evolved into a broader discussion of our health care system overall, with Americans worried about what the pandemic means for the future — particularly if the economy doesn’t recover as quickly as we hope.
Against this backdrop, the mainstream media have predictably given a platform for the left to push its political and health care agendas, particularly a government takeover of the health care system.
Before the last couple of elections, the leaders of the Democratic Party generally supported our current system of private, largely employer-based health care. The shift to universal government health care, aka “Medicare for All,” was on the fringe of the left — until the last presidential election. This radical shift is now the bare minimum for all Democrats running for office.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has spent his career supporting the current system, has since been overcome by the dominant voices of far left-wing leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders and is now completely on board.
A guiding principle of the left is to never let a good crisis go to waste, and it is fully trying to exploit this one to create a government-run health care system. During a pandemic, when many people are looking to the government for answers, the concept may sound more appealing than ever before. But moving in that direction would be a massive mistake.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that a government takeover of health care is not the answer to improving health care. It was government regulatory barriers and bureaucracy that prevented early action that would have slowed the rapid spread of the coronavirus. On testing, masks and treatments, government regulations have been more a hindrance than a help.
Thankfully, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stepped in to remove many of the harmful bureaucratic policies that have built up over decades. Now, the administration and Congress have an opportunity to clear even more of these barriers that prevent doctors and the private sector from driving innovation and delivering patient-centered health care.
Why would anyone want to burden our health system by taking away people’s control and choice and giving it to Washington?
Furthermore, if government-run health care were the panacea its proponents claim, you would expect countries with such systems to have done better in containing the virus. They haven’t. They have struggled.
There have been shortages across Europe including in Italy, where doctors have had to choose whose life to save and who gets a ventilator or a bed in an intensive care unit. The mortality rate in Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Netherlands and Spain are all higher than the United States. Each of these countries has a form of national public health care.
So why does the left continue to push the narrative that universal government-mandated coverage is the best solution for our country?
One needs to look no further than how the government-run parts of our health care system to get a glimpse into what government-run universal coverage would look like. More and more frequently health care providers are less inclined to accept Medicare or Medicaid because along with their lower reimbursement rates, they come with a process full of bureaucratic inefficiencies. Like the experience of those in Europe, beneficiaries of these programs face long wait times for appointments and procedures. Europeans and Canadians often come to the United States for care precisely because of how poorly run their system is.
The left would respond that at least people in Europe and Canada have insurance. Well, having insurance without access to a doctor does not make you healthier; it simply means you have a meaningless card that says you have insurance.
Our health care professionals have proven they are the best the world has to offer throughout their tireless efforts to treat COVID-19 patients. While we must find ways to reduce the cost of health care and increase access, more government is not the answer.
• Sean Spicer has served as White House press secretary and chief strategist of the Republican National Committee, and is a senior adviser to America First Action.
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